Prehistoric people developed a technique for making a play dough-like material from mammoth ivory

Prehistoric people developed a technique for making a play dough-like material from mammoth ivory

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Prehistoric people developed a technique for making a play dough-like material from mammoth ivory

It is stated in The Siberian Times that Evgeny Artemyev of the Russian Academy of Sciences has studied 12,000-year-old archaeological objects that have been found some 20 years ago at the Afontova Gora-2 archaeological site, which is situated on the banks of the Yenisei River in south-central Siberia.

The items include objects made from the spongey parts of woolly mammoth bones.

The finds were made in early 2000 but were re-examined recently by Dr Evgeny Artemyev who said that the figurines can be either Ice Age toys made by people who populated this area of the modern-day Siberia, or a form of primaeval art. 

‘When you look at them at different angles, they resemble different types of animals. 

‘It is possible that this is the new form of Palaeolithic art, that the international scientific community is not aware of yet’, the archaeologist said. 

The two prehistoric figurines appear similar to a bear and a mammoth, says Dr Artemyev, who has worked at the site since the 1990s. 

Looked at from another angle, one of the figurines maybe a sleeping human.

The ivory bars, some of them phallic-shaped, discovered at the same site were created with a technique which made them almost ‘fluid-like’. 

‘The mammoth tusk was softened to the extent that it resembled modern-day playdough. We don’t know yet how ancient people achieved that’, Dr Artemyev said. 

‘On the items, we can see traces of stone implements and the flows of the substance before it stiffened. This means that the tusk was softened significantly, the consistency was viscous. 

‘Most likely it was not for the entire tusk, but its upper part which was processed’, explained Artemyev. 

Dr Evgeny Artemyev and Afontova Gora-2 archeological site in Krasnoyarsk.

The archaeologist said that he didn’t come across similar finds on other Palaeolithic sites.

‘Perhaps we don’t get to see reports about such finds because scientific teams rarely publish about items that can’t be properly explained. These elongated ivory bars could be blanks prepared to make making implements, or tools, or future toys – or anything else, we can only guess’, Dr Artemyev said. 

While scientists can’t yet fathom why these shapes were made, the ‘playdough’ crafting technique helps them realise that these ancient people had much greater skills than they have imagined.

‘We tend to think of them as more primitive than they were. Yet they had technologies we cannot properly understand and describe, such as this softening of the tusks’, the archaeologist said. 


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